If you follow my instagram then you may have seen that Jenson has suffered lately from ongoing ear infections. I say suffered but he actually seems absolutely fine except for his ear leaking and the odd irritation which causes him to rub at his ears. I thought I’d share our story and a few tips that we’ve learnt for avoiding ear infections in the future which will hopefully help some of you reading this.
From around the age of 3 months, Jenson used to scratch the top of his head, right near the front above his forehead to the point that he’d make it bleed. He wouldn’t cry but he’d grunt a little bit as if he were trying to relieve an itch and I’d constantly have him in scratch mittens or sleep suits with built in ones. I always assumed that it was dry skin or maybe some kind of eczema or his tiny bit of cradle cap that he had but the health visitors assured me that cradle cap didn’t itch, and as I applied Aveeno cream to him so regularly I knew deep down that it wasn’t dryness or eczema causing it either.
I did worry a little that he may have been having headaches but I was advised that it was probably a tiredness thing as lots of babies rub their eyes or pull at their ears when they’re sleepy. Even though I doubted this as it was odd to me that it would be right at the top of his head that he was scratching and not always when he was tired; I put it to the back of my mind, kept him in scratch mittens and hoped that it was just a phase that he would soon grow out of.
Well, about two months ago, when Jenson was 7 months, I put him down for a nap in his bedside crib. He’d been perfectly well and went down for his nap happily as usual. When I heard him babbling away to himself a couple of hours later I went to pick him up and noticed a brown discharge coming out of his ear and onto his mattress. Straight away I thought ‘ear infection’ and when it carried on leaking out throughout the course of the day I knew for sure that it was. There was so much liquid that you couldn’t see into his ear to see if there was anything in there or if there was a hole but I knew something was going on.
The next morning I called up the doctors and was told that because he was well in himself, not screaming, no temperature or even irritability; it was likely just ear wax and I was told that he didn’t need an appointment. I’m so glad that I persisted though, knowing that brown liquid pouring out of your ear isn’t normal, and got an appointment for a couple of days later.
When we went to the appointment the nurse straight away saw that it was indeed an ear infection and prescribed him one week of antibiotics which he took absolutely fine. The only problem though was that the infection didn’t clear up; after seven days of antibiotics there was no improvement at all and from experience I know that antibiotics tend to make a huge difference from about day two if they’re going to work. We went back in and were given ear drops; something that the doctor admitted we should have been given from the start!
After a week of those and still no improvement, swabs were taken and stronger antibiotics as well as different ear drops were prescribed. I was really sceptical about giving Jenson stronger antibiotics but the doctor was concerned that him eardrum was so blocked they couldn’t even see if there was a perforation and it needed to be clearer up.
Well the annoying thing is that when I was handed the prescription in the waiting room by the doctor the antibiotics weren’t on there. The doctor rushed off in such a hurry that I didn’t have time to question it and the receptionist told me she’d call me back to collect it later. Well after a few phone calls over the next couple of days with no luck, and a seemingly cleared up ear from the new antibiotics, I quickly forgot to keep chasing the ear drops and when I went in for a follow up appointment a week later with a different nurse I was told that it was all clear and looked fantastic.
Something that I quickly realised as well was that Jenson hadn’t been scratching his head anymore which must have meant that before his ear started leaking he probably had a lot of pressure built up which was causing him discomfort. As soon as his ear perforated and began to leak the pressure was gone and the scratching stopped!
Well I thought that was the end of it all but last week, about three weeks after the infection had clearer up, it started to leak again. Jenson had been fussy for a couple of weeks before hand, not eating, drinking or napping properly; waking in the night, falling asleep mid-play and just being generally emotional and clingy. As soon as his ear started leaking again – bam, happiest baby in the world again. It must have been the infection building up again and once it perforated, which didn’t seem to bother him, the pressure was gone and aside from the leaking, he was back to himself.
So, we popped back to the doctors and after a phone call to the Ear, Nose and Throat clinic the nurse advised that we followed the most recent course of action (that we were supposed to take before) which was the drops AND the antibiotics. What had happened was Jenson had two types of bacterial infections, one that would be responsive to the antibiotics and the other to the ear drops; not having the ear drops meant that although the infection seemed to clear up; the second type wasn’t completely eliminated and slowly built up again.
It’s so frustrating to think that this may have never come back if we were just given the right prescription in the first place but as long as he’s on the right course of action now I’m happy.
So right now he is having three doses of antibiotics a day for seven days as well as three lots of two ear drops a day for ten days. The infection has already cleared up after three days so fingers crossed as long as we complete the courses correctly, that’ll be the end of it.
We’ll for sure be referred to the ENT if it comes back again but heres hoping that won’t happen.
A couple of tips that we’ve been taught for avoiding ear infections which I’ve been practising as much as possible are to firstly feed your baby upright. Jenson used to feed himself his bottle in his cot but where all of the tubes are linked there is a risk that the milk could get into the eustachian tubes causing a middle ear infection (which is what Jenson has been getting). I’ve read that babies should be at a 30 degree angle which for me meant putting Jenson in his Nuna chair, car seat or propped up with a nursing pillow but the nurse advise me that he should be completely upright which now means me holding him for each bottle. It’s no problem at all but he likes to lay back and hold his own bottle but his arms get tired holding the bottle up and if I try to hold it he gets a bit annoyed.
The second tip is to cut down on or cut out completely the use of dummies. Studies have shown that babies who use dummies are almost twice as likely to get a reoccuring ear infection so I’ve been limiting Jenson to when he needs to settle rather than when he sees one and puts it in his mouth!
Have your little ones experienced ear infections before? What are your top tips for avoiding them?
Thanks for reading,